Monday, January 4, 2010


Are there verbs which do not have 'progressives'?

Some grammarians do not favor use of some verbs in continuous forms. The meaning of the verb is important, in choosing whether to use it in a continuous sense or not. The verbs can be used in a continuous form, if we intend a tangible meaning, instead of some abstract idea. The dividing line is very thin in this respect. The current tendency is to use continuous forms at user's discretion.

Verbs of 'appearance'
appear, look, seem etc.

Verbs of 'emotion'
desire, feel, like, love, hate, hope, prefer, refuse.

Verbs of 'perception'
hear, notice, recognise, see, smell.

Verbs of 'possession'
belong to, contain, consist of, have.

Verbs of 'thought'
agree, believe, consider, forget, imagine, know, mean, mind, remember, suppose, trust, understand.

Not preferred: The President is wanting to see you.
Preferred: The President wants to see you.

Not preferred: She is smelling something obnoxious and odious. She is wanting to clean the house.

Preferred: She smells something obnoxious and odious. She wants to clean the house.

Not preferred: He is having a flat.
Preferred: He has a flat.
Reason: A verb of possession cannot have a continous form.

See the difference below:

Acceptable: My wife is having lunch.
Reason: The intention here, does not appear to express possession of lunch.

Acceptable: I bought a house belonging to Smiths.
Reason: 'Belonging' here is a present participle i.e. adjective. It describes the house. 'Belonging' = 'which belongs to' here.

Example from Paradise Lost 5:

And all the sea, from one entire globose
Stretched into longitude; which having passed ,( PL- 5 ) .

Explanation: Here, 'having passed' does not indicate possession. The form is also not continuous. Hence, this is acceptable.

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